William A. Knowlton


  • JD, University of Virginia School of Law
  • BA (History), cum laude, Yale University


  • District of Columbia
  • Massachusetts
  • American Health Lawyers Association
  • Trustee, Milton Academy
  • Trustee, Kieve-Wavus Education, Inc. 
  • Director, Mount Desert Island Community Sailing and Maritime Education, Inc. 
  • Director and Clerk, The Kenneth B. Schwartz Center (2001-2016)
  • Director and Capital Campaign Chair, Community Music Center of Boston, Inc. (2006-2015)
  • Trustee and Clerk, Sea Education Association, Inc. (1990-2000)
  • Trustee, Trinity Hospice, Inc. (1995-2000)
  • Financial Times Innovative Lawyers (2018) – Honored for his depth of knowledge advising on health care and life sciences law.
  • The Best Lawyers in America (1995-2021)
  • Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business (2004-2020)
  • Massachusetts Super Lawyers (2004-2016)

William A. Knowlton


Major players in the health care and life sciences industries turn to Bill Knowlton for trusted counsel on their most important corporate, regulatory and governance matters. With more than three decades of experience in health care law, Bill offers clients a singular perspective on these complex issues, particularly with regard to acquisitions, joint ventures and restructurings. Clients have told Chambers USA that Bill is "tremendous on healthcare work, and provides leadership qualities that permeate the strength of the practice as a whole." 

In his practice, Bill regularly advises academic medical centers and faculty practice plans, hospital systems, pharmaceutical companies, managed care organizations and health care investment firms. He also works closely with private equity clients on their acquisitions of health care companies. 

Clients have described Bill in Chambers USA as “a diplomatic, highly skilled negotiator.” He has worked with several major academic medical centers on restructuring their relationships with their affiliated medical schools and universities, and has also advised private equity clients on the regulatory framework of health care companies they are seeking to acquire. 

One of the earliest members of Ropes & Gray’s health care group and its chair for many years, Bill has played a pivotal role in building the firm’s practice in this area. Bill has served in a number of other important leadership positions at the firm including as a member of the firm’s Policy Committee from 2002 to 2015, where he was liaison to both the firm's health care and life sciences practices. He currently serves as co-chair of the firm's Hiring and Development Committee which oversees associate hiring and development. He also manages a number of important client relationships, including those involving innovative alternative fee arrangements. 

Bill belongs to the American Health Lawyers Association and served as a director and clerk of The Kenneth B. Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, a national, and increasingly international, charitable organization that supports the physician-patient relationship.


  • Leads the firm’s relationship with Pfizer in the Pfizer Legal Alliance, a cutting-edge outside counsel partnering program that delivers the vast majority of Pfizer’s legal work under a prospectively set, annual fixed fee. Ropes & Gray provides Pfizer, the world’s largest life sciences company, with a full range of legal services in the areas of M&A, licensing, government enforcement, litigation, compliance, regulatory, and intellectual property rights and enforcement.
  • Represented several academic medical centers, including the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Partners HealthCare, Thomas Jefferson University Health System, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, and University of Alabama Health Services Foundation on their major restructurings and medical school relationships. Advised George Washington University on the sale of the George Washington University Hospital to a partnership of George Washington University and Universal Health Services. This was one of the most significant nonprofit to for-profit conversions in the country.
  • Handles all strategic matters, including affiliations, joint ventures, physician relationships, and regulatory and governance issues, for longtime clients, which include major regional health systems such as Baystate Health, Central Maine Healthcare, and Stamford Health.
  • Advises Prospect Medical Holdings, Inc. in the development of its innovative coordinated regional care model in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
  • Serves as outside counsel to the Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions, Inc. and the Controlled Risk Insurance Company of Vermont, Inc., a Vermont risk retention group for the teaching hospitals of Harvard Medical School as well as MCIC Vermont, the risk retention group for Columbia, Johns Hopkins, New York Presbyterian Hospital, the University of Rochester Medical Center, Weill Cornell and Yale.
  • Advises health care institutions on innovative transactions. For example, represented the University of Pennsylvania Health System (Penn) in its collaboration agreement with Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) to provide CHOP with access to Penn's proton beam therapy facility.
  • Counsels clients on the formation of hospital/physician joint ventures, including ACOs, MSOs, PHOs, IPAs, ambulatory care centers and specialty service joint ventures.


  • Quoted, “4 Skills That Lead Associates To Success,” Law360 (August 2, 2017) 
  • Author of Legal Chapter, Developing a Successful Physician Hospital Organization, American Hospital Publishing, Inc. (1995)
  • Co-author, "Controlling Liability Through Indemnity and Insurance Provisions in the Corporate Sponsored Research Agreement Forum," Risk Management Foundation of the Harvard Medical Institutions, Inc., Vol. II, Number 1 (January – February, 1990)
  • Co-author, "Hospital Sponsored Preferred Provider Organizations," Law, Medicine & Health Care (October, 1984)
  • Co-author, "The Changing Legal Requirements of and Legal Protections for HMO Peer Review Activities," Group Health Institute (1988)



  • Speaker, That Ship has Sailed…or Not? What Can Those Still Exploring Affiliation Learn from the Deals that Have Already Closed? AHLA Health Care Transactions Conference, Nashville, TN (May 1-3, 2019)
  • Moderator with Speakers Sandra Fenwick, President and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, Peter Slavin, M.D., President of Massachusetts General Hospital and Kevin Tabb, M.D., President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center: Making the Commitment to Compassionate Healthcare Leadership, 12th Annual Schwartz Center Health Policy Breakfast, Boston, MA (April 4, 2014) 
  • Speaker, Odd Bedfellows: The Emerging of Non-Traditional Alliances in the Healthcare Market, Healthcare Law & Compliance Institute, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL
    (March 3, 2014)
  • Guest Speaker, Association of Corporate Counsel Value Challenge Steering Committee Meeting – Changes in “Big Law”, Washington, DC. (June 20, 2013) 
  • Guest Speaker, KPMG General Counsel Share Forum, New York, NY (January 17, 2013)

Click here to view a full list of Bill Knowlton's presentations.

  • JD, University of Virginia School of Law
  • BA (History), cum laude, Yale University
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